Fern Ridge Review
Sweet Lorane Community News
July 2, 2020
By Pat Edwards
As many of you already know, Jim and I have owned the Lorane Family Store in Lorane for almost 43 years now. In 1926, Bill Mitchell and his wife Hattie bought the land on both sides of the road, where the store currently sits. Their home still sits across the street and in 1932, they sold the small parcel of land to Earl C. Herendeen, a cousin, where he put a small barbershop and service station. He only had it for two years, however, when he sold it back to Bill and Hattie in 1934. They added on to the barbershop building several times and established it as a grocery store that they ran as the Lorane Service Station until we bought it from them in December 1977 following Bill’s tragic death resulting from a robbery and his kidnapping from the store in 1969.
During the time following his death, his daughter, Estelle Mitchell Counts, ran the store for her mother and family until Hattie’s death in 1977. Ironically, the Mitchell family also had it for 43 years.
Jim and I have had the store on the market for the past 2 years because we are no longer able to run it ourselves and… it’s time. We will soon be handing the reins over to another family who we are in the process of selling it to. In one of my columns this month, I will introduce the new owners to you. We are so excited to see it passing from our hands to theirs, and I think the community of Lorane will be, too.
The Mitchells and the Edwards have seen many highs and lows occur that impacted not only the store, but the community, too. Some of the lows were quite memorable. Don’t get me wrong… the good things, by far, outnumbered the bad, but this column will be more about the difficulties the Mitchell and Edwards families have had to face as store owners.
In 1973-1974, while the Mitchell’s still owned it, the world went through an oil crisis where the price of a barrel of oil increased 400%. In Lorane and elsewhere, gasoline was at a premium. Drivers of cars lined up at the gas pumps without knowing if the gas would run out before they got enough in their cars to get to work. Gas prices reached the unheard of price of $1 a gallon.
Bill Mitchell’s kidnapping and robbery of the Lorane Service Station was the most devastating crime that happened there, but Jim and I also had several break-ins during our tenure… the most dramatic being a stolen semi-truck cab that crashed into the front part of the store so that the crooks could attach a cable to our ATM machine inside and pull it out. It was found a few days later on Ham Road.
We were hoping to feel a sense of joy and relief, as well as nostalgia when we hand over the keys to the new owners in August, but this year’s COVID-19 pandemic has added stress and concern for the welfare of not only our customers, but our employees, as well. With our family’s help, we have been able to keep the shelves stocked with items that are needed locally to try and save community members from having to make frequent runs into town. Our daughter, Gloria, hung a clear plastic curtain from the ceiling in front of the counter to help contain any viral spread between customers and staff, and we have maintained distancing of at least 6 feet for those inside the store. All was running pretty smoothly until the increase in the numbers of active coronavirus cases in Oregon went up alarmingly, causing the state mandate that everyone must wear masks inside public spaces beginning July 1.
I admit that Jim and I did not plan well at the store. We figured that everyone would know they had to wear the masks, so we simply instructed our employees to require that anyone entering the store had a mask on. As it turned out, it proved to be a quite difficult day. Most of our customers were very obliging and came prepared with masks on. Some, who had forgotten about the mask mandate arrived, and bought some of the handmade cloth masks a local resident is selling, or we gave them a disposable mask to wear if they preferred. With a few others, however, our employees were met with anger and rudeness from people who refused to put on a mask. Some left; some others came in the store anyway and insisted that their items be rung up. When Jim and I brought in groceries from town that afternoon, our staff members were stressed as they told us about their day. We instructed them that they were to call us if there was further trouble, but fortunately it smoothed out by evening.
The way that our staff members were treated that day prompted me to send a message to the community that ended with these words… “Please… if you are upset by the mandate, don’t take it out on the women who are working so hard to help us keep the store open and stocked during this very difficult period. They are following our instructions and we are following the instructions given to us. Boycott the store if you must, but please realize that for us, it is a health issue… not a political one.” I think that this request should be shared here, too, as I understand these same issues are present in retail stores all over the county.
The next day, I went to the store and spent several hours there so that, as the co-owner, I would be available to deal with anyone who refused to wear a mask. Fortunately, while I was there, the few who arrived without a mask accepted the masks we offered them and put them on with the exception of one man who wouldn’t take it and returned to his truck and left. We have no problem with this type of action by those who do not wear masks. It is their right, as it is our right to refuse service to them. This is a mandate we must follow if we are to keep our business open and those who disagree with the mandate and don’t want to do business with us because of it are free to shop elsewhere.
Thank you for the tremendous amount of support being shown to us by the community of Lorane and so many more who understand our situation.
It’s going to be so bittersweet to hand over those keys soon… but it is time.